Press Report : Jobs to go at Longbridge as MG production halted until spring

John Cranage, Birmingham Post, 7th October, 2009

MG production at Longbridge is at a standstill

MG production at Longbridge is at a standstill

MG Motor UK yesterday confirmed its plan to suspend production temporarily at Longbridge as the “season” for two-seater sports cars ends. The line producing low volume numbers of variants of the MG TF will resume in March 2010 when demand is expected to pick up.

The Chinese-owned company said it expects to cut 20 jobs at the former MG Rover plant in response to the move, which is in line with production cuts seen at most of the world’s carmakers over the past year after the global credit squeeze and recession sent sales plummeting. The remaining 80 staff will be retained to help prepare completed cars for shipping to Dealers and to work on routine plant maintenance.

Yesterday’s UK registration figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that MG had its best month in September since production resumed at Longbridge last year. The company sold 61 cars during the month, bringing the total for the year so far to 265, volumes largely in line with industry expectations.

We build the TF in low volumes and in batches. The market for two-seater sports cars in the UK is down 30 per cent over last year and has fallen by 40 per cent since 2007. The peak sales period is between March and September and sales over the next few months will be very low. The logical time to re-start production will be in March when the market starts to pick up again. We have enough cars in stock to keep the Dealers supplied during the winter months.” Guy Jones, MG Motor UK Limited’s new Sales and Marketing Director

Since it acquired MG Rover’s manufacturing assets following the collapse of the company in 2005, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) has worked on reviving the TF two-seater sports car, a car aimed largely at MG enthusiasts in the UK. All 50 units of a limited edition variant celebrating the 85th Anniversary of MG have already been sold, the company said yesterday.

Newly-appointed Sales and Marketing Director Guy Jones said: “We build the TF in low volumes and in batches. The market for two-seater sports cars in the UK is down 30 per cent over last year and has fallen by 40 per cent since 2007. The peak sales period is between March and September and sales over the next few months will be very low. The logical time to re-start production will be in March when the market starts to pick up again. We have enough cars in stock to keep the Dealers supplied during the winter months.”

SAIC, which produces a version of the Rover 75 saloon car in China, is understood to be developing plans for a new generation of MG sports car that could have the capacity to raise production volumes at Longbridge.

As reported in the Birmingham Post yesterday, Mr Jones has joined MG Motor UK with responsibility for UK sales, marketing, public relations and brand development after holding a similar post at LDV, the Birmingham van company that collapsed in June after the recession sent the light commercial vehicle market into freefall.

[Source: Birmingham Post]

 

Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

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  1. Kevin says:

    “The line producing low volume numbers of variants of the MG TF will resume in March 2010 when demand is expected to pick up.”

    What demand?

    Kev.

  2. Carl Maynard says:

    This is to be expected but clearly doesn’t send out the right signal if volume production is ever to resume at Longbridge; for the bigger picture I cannot really see the logic of lay-offs on this scale.

    Unfortunately, I think we are looking at a terminal situation for MG in the UK – a great shame! I very much hope I am wrong and that we aren’t conned… I’m also an Angophile -pseudo Rovers built by Tata and Lotus F1 in Malaysia, for example, just aren’t the real thing… just like a Chinese MG…

  3. Crapmeister General says:

    I have been predicting this for months and it is a sad day. Considering the low level of production, this has to be seen as the end – I just hope the workforce can find alternative employment.

    This is a sad time for all working at Longbridge and, as visitors to this site, our thoughts should be with them. At a time like this it doesn’t seem right to discuss the future plans of MG such as they are as, at the end of the day, the workforce at Longbridge matter much more than a car.

  4. You have to be very naive to believe that MG TF production will be resumed.

  5. Mark R says:

    With only 265 sales in a year, now I know why I have not seen one of the new MGs on the road.

  6. Fevsisere says:

    Wow, 61 cars sold in one month!!! The whole idea of keeping Longbridge open is pointless.To think what the plant was like in its heyday and where it is at present with MG UK building 265 cars in a year and proclaiming that as though they are proud of the fact!! The whole MG/Rover saga should have finished in 2005 and and we would then have been spared all this embarassment. Chinese cars? No thanks.

  7. AndrewM says:

    Sorry, but this is the end of production at Longbridge. Surely those volumes can not support the continued production of the TF and definitely will not create enough capital to invest in a replacement – the TF is now getting on for 10 years old and the ‘F’ was launched 14 years ago.

    This is the end, I’m very saddened to say.

  8. @Mark R

    I should, as a matter of record, just point out that a total of 398 MG UK-built MG TFs were registered between the 1st September, 2008 and the 31st September, 2009.

  9. Mike C says:

    The TF line is an irrelevance and, much as I want the workforce to keep their jobs, the numbers are tiny. If people’s concern is jobs, then maybe they should stop slagging off BMW and MINI as that product employs several thousand in the UK…

    The decision about volume production of future MG saloons is completely separate and would be costed and budgeted in a completely different manner (with attempts to get the UK Government’s help no doubt). I have my doubts to be honest – with such a large domestic market and less competition, why bother with the European bloodbath?

  10. Ross says:

    Mike C :
    The TF line is an irrelevance and, much as I want the workforce to keep their jobs, the numbers are tiny. If people’s concern is jobs, then maybe they should stop slagging off BMW and MINI as that product employs several thousand in the UK…

    The decision about volume production of future MG saloons is completely separate and would be costed and budgeted in a completely different manner (with attempts to get the UK Government’s help no doubt). I have my doubts to be honest – with such a large domestic market and less competition, why bother with the European bloodbath?

    Totally agree with this comment – the cars could be made so cheaply abroad and could still be highly competitive even after any tariffs and the like have been imposed.

    However, technical knowledge is still important and I hope the Chinese see sense and continue to use those skills in the area of engineering and design that have been developed in the UK over many years.

  11. Carpmeister General says:

    @Ross
    Spot on – I think the TF has been a diversion and what is really required is a saloon/MPV/SUV because these form the majority of cars on our roads today.

    I also agree it is time that we all got behind the MINI – it is a fantastic product and it is British-designed and British-built.

  12. Russell says:

    It certainly does not sound good news for the long term future of Longbridge. Hopefully I am wrong but, somehow, I don’t quite think we will see mass production again. I really want this to happen and would then be hopeful of getting my job back. I do think the recession has had a major effect on the recovery of the MG brand – if I had not been on short time myself for most of this year I would have part exchanged my ZR for a new TF and I feel that MG UK has lost out on a lot of sales for the very same reason.

    After reading some of the comments on here, I do agree that the success of MINI has kept many people in a job and that is clearly good for the UK’s Auto Industry. We should really all help to support this industry as it is certainly one of the major back bones of our economy even though all the manufacturers are now of a foreign origin. However, those OEMs see a need to build in this country as we do have a highly skilled knowledge base and its good to see that Honda have started to build the Jazz here.

    I really do feel that the Ambulance Services and Local Authorities could help out more by buying some of these products as part of their fleets but at least the Police do purchase Vauxhalls. My Local Authority feels it’s right to have Citroens and Renaults as their fleet vehicles – this is such disgrace when so many other vehicles are made in the UK and thereby create employment for Taxpayers who, in turn, fund the Local Authorities.

    I do hope that MG returns to production at Longbridge and that MG UK has stopped production for sensible reasons such as not to stock pile cars. I do think that MG UK will want to see the remaining cars sold before they re-start the track so fingers crossed!

  13. KC says:

    Russell :

    I really do feel that the Ambulance Services and Local Authorities could help out more by buying some of these products as part of their fleets but at least the Police do purchase Vauxhalls. .

    And exactly which Vauxhall model is produced in this country?

  14. @KC

    The new MY10 Vauxhall Astra has just started rolling off the production line at the Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire…

  15. JON says:

    …and the Renault-based vans are built at Luton.

  16. Wilko says:

    I still fail to see why NAC/MG UK stopped selling the ZT/7 here but kept it going for the Chinese market. Surely the ZT/7 had a very much larger potential market in the UK than the TF?

  17. Russell says:

    The standard issue Police car, the Vauxhall Astra, is produced at the Ellesmere Port plant – the plant has produced over 400,000 vehicles. GME do the vauxhall vans as well which, as jon rightly points out, are also based on the medium Renault van. I was trying to make fairly general point and highlight the fact we should now all try to do as much as possible to support the UK car industry before it slips away from under our noses.

    Wilko, I totally agree – second-hand ZTs are still commanding a good market price. I feel it was definately one of the best models to come out of MGR and that the car left the UK market well before its time – not, of course, to forget the Rover 75 which was also a good contender. Just one problem, though, the tracks are now in China so I don’t think that production of the ZT/7 would ever return to the Midlands.

  18. Crapmeister General says:

    The new Astra is smashing!

  19. Chris K says:

    Maybe SAIC Motor should sell Longbridge back to BMW so they could increase MINI capacity in the UK. They could even call them Austin or Morris again!

  20. @Chris K

    Unfortunately, SAIC Motor/MG UK do not own the Freehold Title to Longbridge – that still vests in St. Modwen Properties PLC…

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